The mentor mentee relationship is all what you make of it. You can be best friends or complete strangers, someone to confide in or someone who you awkwardly wave at in passing on campus. I was one of the lucky few who gained a best friend when I was given a mentor.
After you spend a weekend walking on ropes 20 feet above the ground with your mentor (amongst other things) you have to learn to trust them. I’d say Josh Geary is a guy I could trust with just about anything.
Upon the LAS 2015 and 2016 cohort’s arrival at Eagle Village, I was mentorless. However, I was quickly adopted by one of the other lovely mentors for a portion of the day until Josh could be there. This retreat wasn’t only meant for us to get to know our mentors, but to learn more about our cohort and to learn how we work with them. During our first day we were put into several leadership/ bonding situations. Our group facilitator, or as she asked us to call her “Sith Lord”(aren’t Star Wars fans great), lead us through various activities which were meant to test our abilities to communicate with each other and to test our leadership skills.
The most eye-opening activity I participated in, involved all 15 members of my group. We were given a large wooden maze with several strings attached to the edges acting as hand holds. The goal was to move a ball to the center of the maze, controlling it with only the strings. This was easy enough if we all coordinated when and which direction we would move the board. After she saw the ease with which we worked, “Sith Lord” blindfolded all of the mentees. Our mentors became our eyes. Again, with ease, we completed the maze. However, when it came time for the mentors to be blindfolded, we were less than successful. I could see the tension between us when we all attempted to direct our mentors, but the problem was our lack of communication. All of us had such strong leadership skill and great ideas, but that didn’t matter when we lacked the ability to listen. We struggled to convey our ideas to our other group members, but this was also a learning point for us. We got to experience how a year of living and working together influences the way a group of college kids interacts with one another through watching our mentors. It created a precedent for my cohort to aim for.
I think the real bonding started as soon as Josh and I strapped on our harness and climbed 20 feet to the top of the high ropes course. Neither one of us is afraid of heights, so I can’t tell a story about how one of us helped the other overcome this giant fear and we had a bonding moment. Even better, we had the chance to see how awkward, passionate, funny, nerdy, and kind the other was. Josh picked me from a pool of 47 other mentees, we had never met each other before and by some chance we were the perfect pair. All weekend we had people tell us that we were “the same person”. Throuought the two days we played volleyball (well, attempted), drank too many slushies, roasted smores, and had fire side chats. We grew close and developed an amazing friendship. Josh is someone I aspire to be; he’s so knowledgable about our government and he always knows what he stands for, he loves his friends unconditionally and even those he’s never even met before, he’s the mentor I want to be some day (also he’s a big fan of otters which is pretty cool).
Spending those few days at Eagle Village opened my eyes to the possibilities that LAS has to offer me. It’s not about the scholarship money (even if that is a pretty great perk), it’s about growing yourself into a human being who can be trusted with the responsibility of leadership. It’s about creating bonds and friendships, learning who you are as a leader, and becoming someone who is respected by adults, children, coworkers, friends, family and even strangers.